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Why is the Bible called the Holy Bible?

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The phrase biblia sacra (holy books) first appeared sometime in the Middle Ages. In English, one of the earliest—if not the earliest—uses of “The Holy Bible” appeared in 1611 on the cover of the Authorized Version, known in the U.S. as the King James Version. The word holy has several meanings, and, as we will see, all of them describe the Word of God.

One meaning of holy is “sacred, sanctified, hallowed.” When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He commanded Moses to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. This was ground made holy by God’s presence. Because God is sacred, the words He speaks are also sacred, and sinful men such as Moses must be mindful of God’s holiness. In the same way, the words God gave Moses on Mount Sinai are also sacred, just as all words God has given to mankind in the Bible are holy and sacred because He is holy and sacred. Just as God is perfect, so are His words perfect (Psalm 19:7). Just as God is righteous and pure, so is His Word righteous and pure (Psalm 19:8).

The Bible is also holy because it was written by men under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek word translated “God-breathed” is Theopneustos, from theos, meaning “God,” and pneo, meaning “to breathe or breathe upon.” We get the English word pneumonia from this Greek root. So, our Holy God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, literally breathed the holy words of Scripture into the writers of each of the books through supernatural means. The divine Writer is holy; therefore, what He writes is holy.

Another meaning of holy is to be “set apart,” just as God set the nation of Israel apart from her contemporaries to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Similarly, Christians are set apart from unbelievers who walk in darkness, as described by Peter: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” This “set apart” aspect of holiness is true of the Bible because it is a book set apart from all others. It is the only book written by God Himself, and the only book that has the power to set men free (John 8:32), to change their lives and make them wise (Psalm 19:7), to sanctify them and make them holy (John 17:17). It is the only book that gives life, comfort, and hope (Psalm 119:50), and it is the only book that will endure until the end of time (Matthew 5:18).

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This page last updated: December 28, 2023